|Date of Birth||February 7, 1883|
|Place of Birth||Kanturk, County Cork|
|Next of Kin||Inie Elizabeth Clarke (wife), Stettler, Alberta|
|Trade / Calling||Machinist and farmer|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Stettler, Alberta|
|Address at Enlistment||Stettler, Alberta|
|Date of Enlistment||July 7, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||33|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Decorations and Medals||Distinguished Conduct Medal|
|Date of Death||January 4, 1972|
|Age at Death||88|
|Buried At||Shawnigan Cemetery, Shawnigan, British Columbia|
Lieutenant Ernest John Clarke served in the militia before the war then enlisted in July 1916 and went to France with the 50th Battalion. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He served again in the Second World War with the Veterans Guard of Canada.
Ernest was the son of James Herbert Clarke and Rose Emily Outram. His parents were both born in England but he was born in Kanturk, County Cork, Ireland on 7 February 1883. He had an older brother, Harry, and a younger sister, Katherine, who was also born in Ireland. The family immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1889, arriving in Quebec in August on the SS Circassian. They were living in Bradford, York County, Ontario at the time of the 1891 census. By 1901 they had moved to Fort William, Ontario where James was employed as a bookkeeper. Ernest was a bank clerk and later became a machinist.
While he was in Fort William Ernest joined a local militia unit, the 96th (Lake Superior) Regiment. He was also an officer in the Kenora militia, the 98th Regiment, and he may have trained with them during the summer at Sewell Camp (later called Camp Hughes) in Manitoba. Ernest was married in Fort William on 25 or 26 December 1906. His wife, Ina (Inie) Elizabeth Newcombe, was the daughter of William Newcombe and Ellen Atkinson, both immigrants from Ireland. Ina’s family lived in Fort William and her father was a lighthouse keeper. Ernest and Ina’s first child, William Hubert, was born in Fort William in 1907. About a year later they moved to Alberta along with Ernest’s parents, James and Rose.
Ernest and his family settled in the area east of Red Deer and took out a homestead near the village of Loyalist. He joined the militia again, this time the 103rd Calgary Rifles. The war started in August 1914 and he enlisted on 7 July 1916 in the town of Stettler. His occupation was machinst and farmer, his address was Stettler, and next of kin was his wife Inie. They had three more children by then: Marjorie Ina (age 6), Ellen Thelma (age 4) and Edwin Ernest (age 2). Ernest signed up with the 187th (Central Alberta) Battalion, which was based in Red Deer. The recruits trained at Sarcee Camp during the summer and fall and headed overseas that winter, sailing on the SS Olympic and arriving in England on 26 December. The unit was absorbed into the 21st Reserve Battalion and on 2 February 1917 Ernest was transferred to the 202nd Battalion.
After training in the UK for five months Ernest was transferred to a front line unit, the 50th Battalion, and sent to France. He joined his unit in the field in late May. He was promoted to Corporal in August, during the Battle of Hill 70. The Canadians took part in the Battle of Passchendaele in October and November and Ernest earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal during or just after the battle:
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. His Officer became a casualty while the platoon was going forward in support of an attack. He at once took command and consolidated on the line laid down as their position. Later he again advanced and secured a position of great tactical value. He showed great initiative and resource.’
Ernest returned to England early in 1918 and attended the Canadian School of Musketry in March. His Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded on 28 March. Starting in May he was at the Canadian Officers Training School and on 5 August he was given a commission as a Lieutenant with the 21st Reserve Battalion. The Canadians were heavily involved in the last three months of the war, a period known now as the Hundred Days Offensive. Ernest was sent back to France on 11 September and he rejoined the 50th Battalion about a week later.
The Canadians captured the city of Cambrai in October then continued to advance northwest, towards Valenciennes and the Belgian border. On the night of 1-2 November Ernest’s unit was near Valenciennes when they were hit by gas shells and he was one of 14 men evacuated due to gas poisoning. He was taken to a casualty clearing station then to the 20th General Hospital. On 8 November he was sent to England and admitted to the Hyde Park section at the 4th Southern General Hospital in Plymouth, where he recovered for about a month. After ten days at the Canadian Convalescent Officers Hospital in Matlock Bath he was discharged to duty on 20 December and posted to the 21st Reserve Battalion.
On 1 January 1919 Ernest was transferred to the Alberta Regiment Depot and that same month he spent about ten days in No. 12 General Hospital due to stomatitis. He embarked for Canada on 2 May on the SS Cassandra, arriving in Quebec about ten days later and getting discharged on demobilization on 17 May. His wife Ina had moved to Calgary while he was overseas and they made their home there after the war. Ernest worked as a machinist and they had one more son, Kenneth (ca1924). Sadly, Ina passed away in Calgary in 1931 and she’s buried in Union Cemetery. Ernest’s mother had died in Wiste in 1926 and his father in Consort in 1929.
During the Second World War Ernest’s oldest son, Hubert, worked for the Canadian Government in radar technology. Edwin served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war, becoming a Flight Sergeant. The youngest son, Kenneth, was with the Royal Canadian Air Force for more than twenty years and was also a Sergeant during the war.
Ernest married again on 26 September 1940 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Victoria, British Columbia. He was serving in the Veterans Guard of Canada at the time and he listed his residence as Seebe, Alberta. His wife, Ruth Marian Falconberg (nee Schultz), was a widow living in Shawnigan Lake, BC. Ernest and his wife settled in Shawnigan Lake and he retired around 1951. He passed away in Cowichan District Hospital on 4 January 1972, at age 88. Ruth died on 26 August 1987, at age 96, also at Cowichan District Hospital. They are both buried in Shawnigan Cemetery.
Ernest is commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour for Loyalist, Alberta.
By Becky Johnson
Photos and some information are courtesy of ‘Where the prairie meets the hills: Veteran, Loyalist and Hemaruka districts’, Veteran Regional History, Veteran, Alberta, 1977.